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PS 21 expects 50K for enrolling uninsured

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As a reward for the school’s efforts to enroll its uninsured students under a health plan, PS 21 in Flushing is expected to receive $50,000 from the city.

According to the city agency HealthStat, over the past year parents, teachers and administrators at the school worked to sign up 181 of its 1,261 students to the Child Health Plus plan. Child Health Plus is a state program that provides free or low cost health coverage to children; HealthStat is the city organization working to sign children up to Child Health Plus.

“I’m thrilled on so many levels,” said the Ann Paulson, the school’s principle. “I’m mostly thrilled because it means that so many more children are going to be receiving appropriate health care.”

With Medicaid providing health coverage only to families near or below the poverty line, Child Health Plus reaches out to children who are of a higher income bracket to Medicaid still relatively poor.

In particular, Queens, with its high immigrant population, is home to many people who receive no health coverage.

“It’s great for people who often don’t have access to an insurance plan,” said Dr. Jay Schechtman, chief medical officer for HealthFirst. HealthFirst is a non-profit managed care organization that is owned by various hospitals, including Flushing Hospital, Jamaica Hospital and the Long Island Jewish Health System.

“Being owned by hospitals, we feel the brunt of the uninsured,” said Schechtman.

Schechtman added that the key to enrolling children under Child Health Plus was finding people.

“The ability of people to get into schools, to get into housing projects to promote this program has been an enormous benefit,” he said. “It’s especially helpful with areas such as Flushing and Elmhurst, where there are things like language barriers.”

According to HealthStat statistics, P.S. 21 is one of 17 Queens schools to receive financial awards for working to sign up children to Child Health Plus. The school signed up more students than any other school within Community School District 25, which covers Flushing, Whitestone and College Point. According to HealthStat, the school is expected to receive the maximum award of $50,000.

The city plans to officially announce the award in March.

“This really was a community effort,” said Paulson. She mentioned Marge Schlaffer, a family worker on staff who encourages parent involvement, as particularly helping out at the school.

Paulson said the school is waiting to actually receive the money before they make plans to spend it, but she added that she hopes the money goes back to the greater school community.

“I’d like to see some of the money going towards continued professional development for the teachers, the library, cultural arts, and trips,” she said.

Hayat Masudi, assistant president of the Parent/Tea­cher’s Association at P.S. 21 and marketing representative for HealthFirst, introduced the Child Health Plus program to the school.

Dealing with many parents who spoke no English, Masudi worked with the school’s guidance counselor to help translate Korean and one of the school’s security guards to help translate Chinese.

“It’s not an easy job,” said Masudi. “Often times parents say they don’t have time, they’re cooking.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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